Monday, May 31, 2010

Homemade Applesauce

This is super!

3-4 lbs apples
1 Tablespoon cinnamon (more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon molasses
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
splash of lemon juice, more to taste

1. Peel, core and quarter apples.
2. Put all ingredients into a large pot, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. For chunky sauce, use a potato masher or fork to mash the cooked apples. For smooth, run it through the food mill or blender.
4. Serve hot or chilled. Freezes well for up to a year.

This makes about about 5 or 6 cups of sauce, depending on your apples and how they cook down, and depending, of course, on whether you use 3 or 4 pounds of apples.

I found a variation of this recipe in the June-July 2010 issue of my favorite magazine, MaryJane's Farm. And by the way, our baby is nuts over this applesauce! I have a fondness for it myself, though next time I will use a little less cinnamon.

On our walk the day after I made this applesauce I toted along the apple peels and cores and found a spot in the woods to pitch them. The deer around here look so skinny, I thought I'd help provide someone a little snack.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Daily Life: an account of this homemaker's Thursday

What does a day in the life of a homemaker look like? As you might be able to tell from my poems and high ideals about homemaking, I have a romanticized notion of our calling. However, do not fear for me, reader! This romance is tempered by the practical doings of daily life, an account of which is listed below.

A sweet friend of mine asked me yesterday how I spend my days as a homemaker. So, at the end of the day I jotted down how my hours had sped past. Here we go:

4am - I woke up and decided that I really needed to nurse the baby. So, I quietly went into the nursery for a short nursing session and then went back to sleep.

7:30am - Baby E. awoke and made sweet happy cooing sounds in her crib until I came and greeted her. She smiled up at me and offered me her doll and a soft bunny....then I noticed that her cloth diaper was at the other end of her crib, and that she was sitting happily in a puddle...So, I put on a smile and a stiff upper lip, gave her a big "Good morning!" and a hug.

Began to put a new diaper on her, and started a load of laundry which included 1/2 a bag of dirty diapers, her wet sheet, blanket and mattress cover. I used homemade laundry soap that I learned how to make a few years ago on Crystal Paine's blog. Recovered her mattress with another sheet. Set aside her cloth doll -which was also wet - for hand-washing. I just made that doll for her and I don't want the washing machine to be rough on it.

Since the day seemed warm already and promised to only get more hot, I dressed Elena in a cute sleeveless seersucker dress and bloomers. I made a simple breakfast for Elena and I : scrambled eggs and sliced banana.

We spent some time outside on the deck while it was still partly shady out there. I brought out a baby quilt for us to sit on, a few board books, a toy, and let her play and crawl and explore out there. I watered some of the plants and harvested the dried rose petals off our bush, intending to make them into potpourri for Grandma Neuharth's Christmas present. We read the two little books and went inside. Changed E's diaper. Tidied the nursery. Emptied the washing machine, and set aside the mattress cover to be dried outside, while I stuck the diapers in the dryer. (I try to be energy-conscious with what I do, but the dryer is a weakness of mine). Brought the big drying rack outside to the deck and hung the mattress cover.

9am - Baby Elena went down for her morning nap. My husband got up. He works second shift, so his hours are not really aligned with mine as far as sleep. I have a rip-roaring head cold and did not feel like doing anything but sitting, so Jeff and I watched an episode of 19 Kids and Counting. While it was on I harvested parsley and rosemary from potted plants and tied them up for drying. Found a good spot on the wall of the basement staircase for pinning up the strings of herbs: it will be dark and cool for them there, which are good conditions for drying.
Then I put away clean clothes.
Cleaned all the toilets and sinks in the house. Emptied bathroom wastebaskets. Put fresh linens in our bathroom.
Prepared Jeff's new baseball pennant for hanging in his office.
Did a hand washing session with 3 baby dresses, one doll dress and one cloth doll, then set them outside on the drying rack after taking down the newly-dry mattress cover from the rack.

12 noon: From the partly opened nursery door, I watched Elena play in her crib for a minute before I walked inside: she hugged her orange bunny, talked to it, made it hop, and lay contentedly on her side while she babbled to herself. Eventually she noticed me. I greeted her, then changed her diaper. Nursed.

Brought Elena downstairs and she visited with Jeff and I for a while before i got her lunch prepared and fed her solids. I prepared side dishes for the meal that Jeff and I were to share, and Jeff grilled the main course, which I had defrosted and plated up for him to take out to the grill. Ate lunch with Jeff.

Jeff read aloud from our daily Bible readings.

I made Jeff's evening lunch and packed it in his work bag. Looked after Elena as she crawled around and I emptied and reloaded the dishwasher.

Brought E. upstairs to the nursery to play while I restocked the stack of clean diapers and put her clean clothes away. She listened to her Jesus songs and reveled in being able to play around her toy box: being able to prop herself up and reach into the toy box is still a new thing for her and the excitement hasn't worn off yet.

I rotated her mattress and re-covered it with the now clean mattress cover and the clean sheets. Then we both were called downstairs by Jeff who was on his way out the door for work. We waved goodbye to him, then walked to the mailbox.

Came inside out of the heat. Elena played merrily on the quilt on the living room floor with the Wal-Mart flier that we got in the mail. She liked the dog pictured on the cover. I stayed with her and taught her that dogs say Ruff! Ruff! She proudly imitated. We played together for a while.

Took meat out of the freezer to defrost for tomorrow's midday meal. Another diaper change.

Afternoon nap for Elena. During that time, I repaired a toy, had some tea and composed a blog entry, then read posts on about 2 other blogs. This all took about 1 hour.

4pm. Elena woke up. Nursed. Elena played. Took E. outside for a 1 mile walk. Made some dinner. Gave E. a bath and put her in a nightgown and overnight cloth diaper. We began to quiet down for the night.

I read to Elena and put her to bed by 7:30pm, nursing again beforehand.

I rested on our bed for a little while. Then got up and began making homemade applesauce. While I peeled and sliced a few pounds of apples, I listed to a half hour radio show called Adventures in Odyssey over on the Focus on the Family website.

While the applesauce simmered I aired the house and wrote this account of the day. Watered the outdoor and indoor plants. Cleaned up the kitchen. Emptied clean dishes from the dishwasher -- again! what would I do without the dishwasher?!

10pm nursed Elena while she slept (this tanks her up for the night and she typically sleeps all the way through until 6am, which is great).

Then I wearily prepared for bed and turned out my light.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Giveaway! at The Modest Mom

The Modest Mom is offering a free skirt to the winner of Saturday's random drawing. Sign up by commenting beneath the post at The Modest Mom creates custom skirts for expectant mothers and regular skirts, too.

While you sign up, take a look at the new and improved website for Promoting Beautiful Womanhood/Ladies Against Feminism. It is really an encouraging site.

An Unexpected Visitor

Last Thursday morning at about 8:45, our doorbell rang.

Startled, I sped to the front door to answer; and as I had just put our daughter down for her morning nap, my arms were uncharacteristically empty. Through the window I could see that our caller was not a delivery man, as I'd assumed it would be, but it was a new acquaintance of mine. It was my neighbor's mother, a small gracious lady from central Asia who has been staying next door for about six months. During these special months she has been household support to her daughter, who has just given birth to their firstborn.

I opened the door and smiled, a bit embarrassed that she'd caught me in my robe and slippers. Certainly I am not accustomed to receiving guests while in nightclothes. I welcomed her and motioned for her to come in -- fully expecting her to see that I was not prepared and excuse herself until a more convenient time. However, she came right in and thanked me, and as is their custom, immediately took off her shoes. And as she did so I saw that she was close to tears and very much needed a friend.

How could I be a friend to her? We don't speak the same first language, and we didn't have either of our usual translators with us this time, and we didn't have my dear baby daughter nearby to serve as a sort of common-ground conversation piece....and I was in my robe! But, I just took a deep breath and ushered her into the living room, glad it was in great shape and silently thanking all the Lady Lydia posts I'd read about keeping things ready for guests *see* Quickly I whisked out a box of tissues and tried my best to be a lady (despite my robe!)

This dear woman really just needed a hug and a listening ear. She didn't stay very long, and it didn't seem to matter too much that we didn't always understand one another's exact words due to our language barrier. From what I understood, she was simply overwhelmed by her impending departure; it would be difficult to leave her daughter and son-in-law and only grandchild. These are universal concerns, there is nothing in that emotion that is unique to her culture, nothing in my culture that prevents me from understanding. My heart was heavy for her, and I think she saw the comprehension on my face.

After she left, I held our guestbook - which I'd had her sign - and thought about what had happened. It was a small thing. Yet, I was glad to learn that this acquaintance of mine counted me as a friend, and that our home appealed to her as a place where she would be welcomed at quarter to nine in the morning for a little cry and some kind words.

Hospitality: that word crosses my mind all the time, it is a goal of mine, something I want to offer people and so often I don't know how to make it happen. It intimidates me and I end up being too formal or - perhaps worse, I postpone asking someone over for tea or lunch or a visit, and instead I wait for circumstances to be ideal. I glanced up at the foyer wall to a cross stitch sampler I made. It reads Friends and Neighbors Welcome. How much more authentic that early morning visit was than so many of my other attempts at hostessing hospitable gatherings!

When the pastor prayed at our wedding in 2007, he blessed the marriage with a prayer that included these lines:

"Send therefore your blessing upon these your servants, that they may so love, honor, and cherish each other in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that their home may be a haven of blessing and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen."

This line especially came to mind as I mulled over the visit that morning: it seemed like our home had been deemed a haven of blessing and peace. I also remembered how the girls at one of my bridal showers had all surrounded me and prayed that our home would be a haven, as well.

I really would like our home to be a haven every day - for my own little family and for those who visit us. It seemed to me that any home can only be a true haven by God's help and our cooperation. What do you think? How do you authentically prepare your homes for guests? Not just the outward trappings of being prepared, which are of course necessary and important, but what is it about the haven-like homes you have visited that makes them havens?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The great rivers, and the mighty homemakers.

"Homes are the springs among the hills,
whose many streamlets, uniting,
form the great rivers
the community,
the nation,
the Church.

If the Springs run low,
the rivers waste.

If they pour our bounteous currents,
the rivers are full.

If the Springs are pure,
the rivers are clear like crystal;

If they are foul, the rivers are defiled."

--from Homemaking, by J.R. Miller

This quote has become an important inspiration for me as I live out my days. It is written out carefully and framed, and hangs on our foyer wall. All day as I go about my business of homemaking: caring for baby Elena, being a helpmeet to Jeff, toting things up and down the stairs, preparing fresh linens and laundry and food and dishes and striving to maintain a restful atmosphere in our household, I'm constantly passing by that frame. I keep an eye on it and let it remind me of God's purpose for the home.

I know only two other homemakers of my generation, and they live in states faaaaar away from me. Specifically, they are in Massachusetts and Alabama, and I am in Pennsylvania. Part of the reason I'm founding this homemaking blog is to have a way to connect with other homemakers; there are lots and lots of homemakers who share the above vision - I just haven't met them in person yet! However, I have visited many of their blogs and am incredibly encouraged by their presence on the web: via homemaking blogs I've read about homemakers in
South Carolina,
and elsewhere.

It would be great to get together for tea or a sewing bee or something! But in the meantime, it is encouraging to at least be aware of one another's presence, sharing inspirations, swapping recipes, craft ideas, child rearing advice, book titles, stories and so on. Hello out there!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Honored Guests at Tea

Yesterday our household was honored to recieve two visitors from afar. I suppose that makes them sound like the Magi! Not so. It makes me so happy when they are able to visit us, as they are so special to me: these two guests are my maternal grandfather's first cousin and her husband...and to both shorten and sweeten that distant-sounding explanation of relationship, we have recently decided to classify ourselves with the following titles: Great Aunt Kathleen and Great Uncle Walter, and they refer to me as their niece. These designations are far cozier than before, when we didn't really call one another anything. Interesting how names and titles succeed in making people dearer to each other.

Another part of the reason I was so excited and honored to have my Great Aunt and Great Uncle over is because we all have so much in common. We are really kindred spirits, my Aunt and I. It doesn't seem to make a whit of difference that she was born in the 1920s and I was born in 1979 -- we really may as well be sisters. We're both readers, Christians, interested in American history and our family history, we're both quietly anti-feminism, we laugh at the same things, and simply enjoy our visits and our intermittent letter correspondence.

My Great Uncle is a real hero in my opinion, as he is one of the most gentlemanly husbands I've ever met, and he is a World War II veteran. They were passing through our neck of the woods on their way back from a visit to the World War II memorial in DC. I was fairly overwhelmed, inwardly, at the significance and the great honor it is to ahve a veteran of WWII over for tea! I hold such great respect for the work that generation of Americans did. It was good to hear their report/impression of the monument, as their good opinion of it seems to matter. The monument was created to honor him and his fellow veterans, after all. My Uncle Walter and Aunt Kathleen said the monument seemed very triumphant and respectful, and everything it ought to be. This was good news! Also, they approved of its location in relation to the other monuments and buildings of the capital. (I haven't been to DC since 2000, which was before this was complete, so I was especially curious about things). Its off in a wooded area near the Lincoln memorial. And of course, we all smiled at one another and nodded approvingly, it is always good to be in the vicinity of Lincoln!

My honored guests and I enjoyed our short time together greatly: they gave gifts to my daughter, she smiled and was sweet to them in her baby way and happily let them each hold her. I think instinctively she knows how wonderful they are, even though she's only 12 months old. I shyly brought out my last several sewing projects to show Aunt Kathleen, who finds joy in looking at such things. And I showed Uncle Walter the gardening project that my husband and I have undertaken, and he was very impressed. All too soon the tea was over and my relatives had to be on their way. We waved from the driveway and sighed after their vehicle turned the corner. If only we lived closer!

Thoughts on Housewifery Skills and the Art of Homemaking

"It is the province of the Housewife to be of chaste thoughts, stout courage, patient, untyred, watchful, diligent, witty, pleasant, constant in friendship, full of good Neighborhood, wise in discourse but not frequent therein, sharp and quick of speech but not bitter or talkative, secret in her affairs, comfortable in her counsels, and generally skillful in the worthy knowledges which belong to her vocation."
--Advice to the Housewife, 1787 The Complete American Housewife

I love this quote! It both makes me chuckle and it causes me to try harder at my job of homemaker. Whoever first said this really had a handle on the interdisciplinary nature of our role as homemakers. So, chin up, everyone, and let us put our shoulders to the wheel as we soldier on with our important work of keeping our households running.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Small, but Mighty

My husband said something so reassuring to me during our lunch today. We were just talking about this and that, and he posed the question of why on Earth that television show called "Kings" didn't last longer than a season. Although it was set in the present day, it contained strong biblical parallels to the story of Saul and David, and was suspenseful, beautifully crafted, well acted and extremely well written.

"I don't know." I answered. "But I'm not the one to ask. I feel like I don't fit into any demographic, anywhere. No one seems to like what I like. " I paused, knowing that I sounded kind of whiny, but I wasn't whining, really, and he knew that.
I thought some more.

"Except on the homemaking blogs! I pretty much fit in with that group!"
"That's right," he agreed - not that he frequents homemaking blogs, "Your homemaker group is small but mighty."

Small but mighty. I really am comforted by that.
"Our goal, after all, is to take over the world, you know," I explained with a chuckle, and then more seriously mused, "With households that honor God, and that send little Christian God-followers into the world."